In my capacity as an Owner’s Representative or Project Manager, I quite often have the opportunity to insist that in my projects we consume sustainably sourced products, the main one being structural lumber and finish woods.
Forests are a critical part of our survival on this planet as they provide us with oxygen, they are critical for wildlife providing shelter, cooling down hot terrain, and providing water, and housing of other plant life animals use to survive. Forests provide a great deal of inspiration for us humans, and, it is a critical resource for building and renovating a home.
This begs the question: How can I build my home in a sustainable way that conserves forests?
We have all seen heartbreaking pictures of clear-cutting forests. We have seen once pristine forests and streams desecrated into wastelands by negligent clear-cutting.
What can humankind do about it when we rely on wood for structure, boxes, paper, furniture. Fortunately, there is an alternative. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a worldwide organization based in Bonn, Germany, and active in over 80 countries. The FSC was born out of necessity after no agreement was reached at the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio. The organization sought to work with the wood industry to come up with ways to sustainably harvest trees.
The FSC promotes forests that are sustainable both in harvesting and regrowth of trees. Their vision includes that they meet the needs for forest products without compromising the health of the world’s forests for future generations. “Well, I have never heard of the FSC” you say. “Where on earth can I find a company that abides by FSC guidelines?” you ask. Fortunately, the FSC certifies 3,756 companies in the U.S. alone! In fact, I have been using FSC certified woods since 1993. They also have 496 MILLION acres certified worldwide. 160.4 million of those acres are right here, in the U.S. and Canada.
Those companies that are certified make a commitment to a chain of custody from selective cutting all the way to trucking. This secures habitat for wild animals, birds, and fauna while allowing us to utilize wood responsibly.
Wood can be a reusable resource by replanting forests and reusing materials from demolished structures. This is good news since the population of humans on earth keep growing, and we continue to have more people to house. Even high rise buildings are starting to favor wood over steel in the structural components. The FSC also provides wood for paper, cabinets and flooring and hardwoods for decks and furniture.
Companies that are certified by the FSC are committed to the following 10 principles:
- COMPLIANCE WITH LAWS AND FSC PRINCIPLES
- TENURE AND USE RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
- INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ RIGHTS
- COMMUNITY RELATIONS AND WORKER’S RIGHTS
- BENEFITS FROM THE FOREST
- ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT
- MANAGEMENT PLAN
- MONITORING AND ASSESSMENT
- MAINTENANCE OF HIGH CONSERVATION VALUE FORESTS
- Sustainable maintenance of Plantations
For more information on these principles please click here.
Be aware of industry overseen certification when looking for sustainable companies. Often times these certifications will look similar, so it can be confusing to make sure you are getting the real deal. You can find more information about FSC supported companies.
There are other ways we can conserve and encourage other businesses to conserve. For example lumber yards selling wood by the foot instead of by even two feet as is compulsory now, and having Amazon take responsibility for recycling their boxes.
As an experienced construction project manager and owner’s representative here in Marin county, I can assure you that I am consistently concerned about sustainability. It’s important to me as I am surrounded by beautiful wildlife in the Bay Area from Sonoma to Oakland to San Francisco.